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2019 Shelter Data Set Shows Steady Progress to No-Kill 2025

Yesterday, Best Friends unveiled the 2019 national shelter data collection and analysis from 3,608 brick and mortar shelters, and it shows a steady march towards the goal of reaching no-kill as a country by 2025. Not only did 107,397 fewer animals die in shelters than in the year prior, there are now 2,126 no-kill shelters and 5,460 no-kill communities in the US.  And the national save rate now sits at 79%.  

The most exciting news is that Network partners are driving much of this positive change. They had more than double an increase in lifesaving as compared to non-Network partners; 59% of the country’s reduction in shelter killing (RSK) can be chalked up to the 456 partners (9% of the total reflected in the data) that took advantage of Network benefits ranging from grants to shelter assessments to embedded shelter projects.  

Cats are still the most at-risk animals in shelters, accounting for 69% of all deaths. But the lifesaving work of return-to-field (RTF) and trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs continues to prove that those approaches to dealing with cats can turn the tide. In fact, 29 organizations with Best Friends-supported community cat programming between November 2016 to June 2019 were responsible for 46.5% of the national cat RSK (8,613). 

Celebrating success around the country 

Last week in our town hall, we heard from several organizations in the Dallas area who have achieved more positive outcomes by joining forces and focusing their energy on the animals most at risk of dying in their community. By collaborating with Rockwall Pets, Spay Neuter Network, SPCA of Texas, Operation Kindness and Dallas Pets Alive, Dallas Animal Services achieved the largest increase in positive outcomes in the country last year.  

But Dallas is far from the only community where Network partners are doing amazing things to reach the no-kill goal. Here is a closer look at some of the communities where partners are working together to improve positive outcomes for pets.   

Guilford County, North Carolina 

Guilford County Animal Services started working with Humane Society of the Piedmont (HSP) in 2019 to come up with alternatives to taking in healthy stray cats. With the help of a $32,000 grant from Best Friends, the shelter now refers those cases to HSP, which RTFs the cats back to their home neighborhood. Since beginning the program in April of last year, intake at the shelter dropped by 684 and deaths dropped by 19%.  

Madison County, Illinois  

Metro East Humane Society (MEHS) and Madison County Animal Care and Control (MCACC) have been actively working together to make the county no-kill by 2021. For instance, MEHS implemented a TNR program in 2017 when the save rate for cats was only 61%. Today, MCACC has a current save rate of 92% for dogs and 93% for cats.  

MEHS is steadily increasing the number of cats going through the program as well: from 277 in 2018 to 500 last year. The goal for 2020 is 750 cats.  

Lowndes County, Georgia  

The Humane Society of Valdosta/Lowndes County (HSVLC) has been doing TNR in support of the Lowndes County Animal Shelter since 2013, which HSVLC director of operations Emily Smith says has helped intake drop by 1,000 cats annually.  

Once the pandemic hit, HSVLC also started taking cat calls from the shelter, using its network of fosters as well as fosters through Best Friends in Atlanta and Lifeline Animal Project to take in cats in need, particularly bottle babies. They also managed to convert about half of the kitten finders into fosters.  

Emily says the open lines of communication that have been built over these past months will hopefully enable them to continue saving cats and increasing overall lifesaving in the county. 

Cleveland, Ohio 

The newly christened Neighborhood Pets (NP), which operated as Friends of the Cleveland Kennel for over a decade, recently fine-tuned the work it was doing to support Cleveland Animal Care and Control. Once the shelter started running its own formal adoption program, NP turned its attention solely to helping keep pets in homes.  

“We have a permanent location in one of the highest-intake areas for the shelter, and we provide free or low-cost supplies, vaccines and spay/neuter to the public,” says Becca Britton, NP’s executive director. “We also will help repair fences and pay return to owner fees, which are too high for many people at $90 plus $20 for every day the pet was in the shelter.”  

That work for the community not only pays off in terms of reducing intake at the shelter, it builds some much-needed goodwill with residents who often feel marginalized, Becca adds.  

“People often have a negative impression of animal control officers, so we put a lot of effort into helping build a positive reputation by doing things like tabling at community events with officers in uniform,” she says. “Having those face-to-face experiences really changes the relationship for the better and builds trust.”  

Maricopa County, Arizona  

Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (MCACC), which took in 28,287 pets in 2019, is the ninth largest intake shelter with collected data in our data set. It is also a shelter that boasted an impressive 92.5% save rate last year.  

It has been a long road to get to such a fantastic place, and Friends of Animal Care and Control helped substantially along the way. After more than a decade providing a range of support services to the shelter, including thousands of community spay and neuters, the group rebranded itself. Now known as The Arizona Pet Project (AZPP), it focuses almost exclusively on intake prevention and keeping pets in their homes (while still funding about 2,000 spay/neuter surgeries annually).  

“We looked at where the shelter animals were coming from and found that many were adult pets relinquished by their owners due to sudden crises and systemic poverty,” says Leanna Taylor, AZPP’s executive director. “We created the S.I.T. Stay (Shelter Intervention Team, Helping Pets Stay in Homes) program and placed a counselor into the shelter to offer families whatever they need to keep their pets. Since we started in 2016, we have helped nearly 5,000 pets and their families.  

“The lens through which we look at problem-solving is based on communities and individuals. We fill a niche of support that is an overlay on top of the shelter systems,” she continues. “It’s all about nonduplication of resources, plugging in where there are gaps, keeping administrative burdens low by working within existing infrastructures and staying laser-focused on creating positive outcomes for pets and their people.” 

Well-said, Leanna: that combination of collaboration and focus is the recipe to reach our goal of bringing about a time when there are No More Homeless Pets.  

Elizabeth Bennett
Senior Manager, Best Friends Network
Best Friends Animal Society